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On July 8, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson dedicated 5,000 acres on Maine’s Mount Desert Island as Sieur de Monts National Monument. The National Park Service (NPS) was founded later that summer and, in 1919, Sieur de Monts was redesignated and renamed Lafayette National Park. Doesn’t sound familiar? A decade passed before it gained its current name: Acadia National Park.
AMC’s presence on Mount Desert Island dates back even further, to 19th-century trips to Beech Mountain. Then, in 1922, AMC hosted its annual August Camp on Mount Desert Island. For $58, members could enjoy two weeks along the shores of Echo Lake. Horace Van Everen, the club’s recording secretary, noted in the January 1923 edition of AMC’s Bulletin that park officials—including the “father of Acadia,” George B. Dorr—requested that AMC host a camp at Echo Lake every year. According to Van Everen, the idea garnered the “liveliest interest and attention.”
AMC members made subsequent excursions to the temporary camp in the summers of 1923 and 1924. In 1926, AMC signed a 10-year lease with Wild Gardens of Acadia, a group of financial supporters, under the stipulation that the “the Club shall exercise supervision and control of the property, using every care to guard against fire, shall protect wildlife.” The lease formally established Echo Lake as an AMC camp.
In 1934, Dorr, the superintendent of the park, sold the 13-acre Echo Lake parcel to AMC for $1, with the conditions that the camp would remain dedicated to recreation and that AMC would seek NPS’s approval of any changes.
As the popularity of Echo Lake Camp grew, AMC added modern amenities such as hot and cold running water, electricity, boats, and swimming floats. Even so, the camp retains much of its rustic charm today, with campers still spending a week or more living in canvas tents.